“I never thought it would be like this,” Elise said upon hearing the verdict, the Arizona Republic reported. Clad in a fuchsia dress, matching shawl and silver ballet slippers, she hugged her crying son and daughter before being taken away in handcuffs.
Left behind on the defense’s desk — Elise represented herself — were an hourglass filled with orange sand, tarot cards and a sun-figure mirror. The makeshift altar hadn’t helped her case.
For years, Elise was a leader of the Phoenix Goddess Temple, which offered spiritual and sexual healing services in exchange for “donations” to the church. The temple was raided by local police in 2011, resulting in indictments for several members of the organization accused of partaking in prostitution.
But Elise has maintained that the sexual services rendered by her temple’s “goddesses” are part and parcel of their spiritual practice — that, in fact, the authorities were infringing upon her religious freedom.
“Sexuality is natural, necessary, and a lot of it happens with ignorance,” Elise said in her closing statement, the Phoenix New Times reported. “Please don’t let pornography and sex ed be the only thing people have.”